The blanket

This was written for a dear friend who is looking for some way to reach her sister in the darkness. May it touch you as well. 

The blanket

I stand still and try to disappear into the darkness around me. The cold is unbearable and soon my body begins to shake in search of some warmth or light.

Finding none, I curse everything and everyone. In desperation, I gather up all my pain and begin to knit together a blanket. Weaving in every insult, every punch, the horrible unspeakable things, the shame and the evil I know all too intimately.

I step back and look at my blanket. It is beautiful, a complex knit filled with all the colors of sorrow and despair. I fling it around my shoulders, and like a superhero, it gives me the identity I so crave.

Now I am someone special because of my pain. I am a survivor. I am not numb anymore and I am alive. The blanket makes me think and feel. I spit in the face of everyone who has hurt me.

No longer shivering, I parade around in my blanket for all to see.

“Look at me!” I cry out in joy. “Look at how beautiful I am now.”

I sleep curled up in my blanket, the softness making me feel comfortable and safe. I never let it out of my sight. When others try to get near me, snap, I fling the stitches in their face. Only I know the truth of my pain. Only my blanket can protect me.

Over time though, the blanket becomes worn, heavy and the stitches start to unravel. I desperately cling to it, but the power seems to be fading and the cold and darkness reaches me again.

Huddling under the blanket with tears streaming down my face, the blanket refuses to comfort me anymore. It mocks me now and I get angry.

I look until I find something else to give me comfort.

Then something else.

Then something else.

They all offer a moment of warmth.

Just a moment.

I lay down and now the blanket is so heavy I cannot move. My body is being pushed into the earth and the fabric is cutting into my skin. I pray for death to take me away.

Then I hear a voice quietly whispering my name over and over. I recognize this voice instantly and recoil from it.

No. Go away. I’m too damaged. Too broken. Just leave me.

But the voice continues to whisper over and over and then gently tugs at my blanket.

“I don’t need help,” I yell and pull the suffocating blanket so tight around my face that I can barely breathe.

He whispers my name again and I feel the blanket slowly peeling away from my body. I tug against it one more time and then let go.

All at once He takes the blanket and flings it onto His own shoulders. Through tears I roll over and see Him smiling down at me.

“I will carry this now,” He says.

He reaches His arms out to me and without thinking I leap into them.

He puts a robe around my shoulders and it is the warmest, softest thing I have ever felt.

“Walk with me,” He says.

I do.

I feel so light and free. The air is fresh, the colors bright and everything feels different.

I am no longer alone.

I never really was.

He tells me this walk will never be easy and I will be tempted to weave a new blanket over and over again. The pain, darkness and cold will forever chase me, but I don’t have to live in fear anymore.

He has my blanket. He has my hand.

I am not alone.

I am a child of God and He loves me.

Although I feel unworthy, I accept this love and this gift.

Now, I proudly wear my robe for all to see and remind myself daily to let Him carry my blanket.

I don’t need it.

I am free.

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The light and the dark of my friend

It can happen in just a second.

We are chatting happily about nothing in particular and the light suddenly shifts. Something I said either sparked a memory or struck an exposed wound that I didn’t see, and the darkness descends.

It’s always in the eyes first. I see the color shift slightly and then his gaze drops. Hoping it wasn’t noticed, eye contact is resumed. Yet the wrinkles on his forehead deepen and I can see the truth just under the surface bubbling.

His voice is his biggest betrayer. The tone, volume and speed all drop and I can actually hear the sadness seeping in. It’s subtle, but so noticeable once you pay attention. Like a siren broadcasting the approaching storm, it’s unmistakable.

Defenses shoot up fast, as only someone as experienced in living with pain knows how to do, and I prepare myself for the protective show.

Smiling way too big.

Telling a joke far too exuberantly.

Twisting the conversation away.

Diversionary tactics honed from years of experience.

He is a master at hiding.

He has perfected the art of subtly pushing friends away and protecting them from his demons. Thwarting real conversations with jokes meant to make you uncomfortable and to push your limits. If you’re off balance than you won’t look deeper at him.

handI watch as he pours himself into his creative outlets. His music, writing and art are filled with darkness and light. They are brilliant and help keep him from descending deeper down.

All of this hiding, covering up and creativity do work…most of the time.

Yet after experiencing and battling the darkness myself, the terrible monster that is depression, those moments when I see it happen can’t be ignored. I can’t just let them go without notice.

Nobody should have to go it alone.

True darkness isn’t something you can wish away or just “get over.” It’s as personal as your fingerprint, yet universal in its ability to destroy you. Everyone has experience with it, yet not everyone is pulled completely down.

I know that I am lucky. I have support, love and therapy. I strive to stay in the light most of the time, yet I know the dark intimately and slip down more than I care to admit.

There is no fix for depression.

It makes you feel alone and isolated. Nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to go there with you. It’s too uncomfortable and you have to be willing to expose your own darkness.

It is not for the faint of heart.

I want to be there for him, for my mother and for many others that I see struggle. All I can offer is an acknowledgement of the pain, my sincere love and a listening ear.

I can’t turn away from them.

For me, when I feel that heaviness start to take me over, I get busy. Super busy. I focus on each task throughout my day, making myself check lists and fretting over tiny details that have little real significance. I pour myself into my children and others and hope it’s enough.

But inevitably it happens.

I break.

Retreating into my hole with tears streaming down my face, I push everyone away and wallow in my feelings of inadequacy and fear.

The Machine

There is something in the tonal change
subtle, barely perceptible
enough to pull the lever

Chain winds around and tightens
breath becomes harder, thoughts unclear
belt moves, screeches its familiar tune

Never enough, constantly trying and failing
can’t let go, things will break
turning, tightening, hurting

Unrelenting it whines and chugs
painful pitch vibrates deep inside
sweet relief, release forever inches away

Intensity, fear wrapped in network of pain
turn it up, always threatening to break
shuddering, pulsing, trembling within

Gears slip, yet won’t fully snap apart
unbalanced it eternally churns uneven song
never the same, lever won’t be pushed back

I can see this pattern, this machine, work itself on me and many others that I love. I see it wind us up and spit us out. I wish I could shake us all free of its grasp and live fully in the light. Yet, deep down I suspect that isn’t something that can happen. The dark is always there.

Yet I am trying.

And I am praying.

I’m a tiny baby Christian just barely blooming. I read the Bible as a teenager, but never really embraced it. I was cynical, questioning and goal focused. There was no time to ponder my soul; I had papers to write, bills to pay and expectations to fulfill.

A few nights ago I read this:

1 John 2:6-7: If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

The darkness has been such a big part of my adult life; it’s hard to imagine fully letting it go. Yet I want to. I wonder what it would be like to let go of all the pain that I hold tight to my chest? I wonder what it would feel like to live each day embracing the light and never fearing the dark?

I take another stumbling step forward, but I am no longer alone.

The monster strikes at midnight

“Mommy! Mom! Help!”

Jolted awake, I sit up in bed. I look at the clock and think it must have been a dream. Just as I settle back onto my pillow, I hear the most frightening scream.

“Mom! Help me! I’m so scared. Where are you?”

The sound of his voice sends me bolting out my bedroom door. His panic and intensity scares me so much that I almost fall.

I look in his room and he isn’t there.

His voice sounds far away and I start to panic.

“Where are you?” I yell.

“Downstairs bathroom! Hurry mom! Help me!”

Heart pounding I leap down the stairs and run toward the bathroom. As I do, horrible images enter my head and it feels like an eternity until I reach him.

There he is. Sitting on the toilet. He is completely naked. Tears are streaming down his face and he is shaking.

“Why are you downstairs? What is wrong?” I yell.

My husband enters the bathroom right behind me. I hear my daughter calling out now from her bed.

“What is wrong?” I yell again.

“I was going to the bathroom and then this terrible, scary bug came at me,” he sobs. “I was screaming for you forever. I think it’s by the door now. I am so scared.”

We look near the door and see it.

Another fucking centipede.

You have to be kidding me.

I cradle him in my arms and calm him down.

“It’s OK,” I say. “Daddy will kill it. It’s just a bug. Your safe.”

My husband jumps into super protector mode and kills it with a broom. I gather it up with toilet paper and we flush it down the toilet.

I follow my boy into his bedroom. He grabs his panda, snuggles under the covers and slowly starts to settle down.

“Don’t you EVER do that to me again,” I tell him.

“Sorry mommy,” he says. “I was so scared.”

“I know love, I know.”

After his breath returns to normal and he is settled in, I quickly check on my daughter and head to bed.

The second I enter the safety of my room I start to laugh hysterically.

It’s just all so ridiculous.

In a matter of seconds the laughs turn into sobs.

Big, giant sobs that take me down.

My husband looks on in confusion, and I can’t explain it.

Sometimes it’s all just too much.

I spent my afternoon holding a dear friend who had fallen hard into the darkness and weight of depression and pain. It was a dark day and it scared me.

I know that feeling.

I fear it.

I pray it never returns.

I go to therapy every week to keep from letting it take hold of me again.

When I get home I see the news of the death of Robin Williams.

Bam.

Pow.

Ouch.

Here it is again.

Depression isn’t something to be taken lightly or that can be “willed away” by people who love you.

Sometimes all the good, wonderful things in the world aren’t enough.

The pain can be deeper and more pervasive than love.

I sit and weep for my friend, for others who have lost the battle and for myself.

After a few minutes I stop.

I go back to my son, grab him up and hug him hard. He returns it with full force.

“I love you so much,” I tell him. “You know that right?”

He smiles and makes his sweet little cooing sound.

“Yep. I love you momma.”

Today is another day.

cooper

NOTE: I have been humbled by all the love and support that has poured my way regarding “Exposed by my children for what I really look like.” I can’t answer all your emails, but know that I’m grateful to each and every one of you that have written me. May you all see your beauty and embrace it.